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With England now sure to win the 2014 World Cup under the inspirational leadership of Jack Wilshere, how do we reflect on Wednesday night's friendly? The presentation of various caps and awards, a good bit about the Sir Bobby Moore charity, and a laundry list of people who should be remembered with a minute's silence all gave it the air of one of those ITV pro-celebrity beanos. The only surprise was that Robbie Williams or Cheryl Baker wasn't limbering up on the touchline.
However, one man definitely does not do friendly. Roy Keane began his punditry in typically combative fashion, responding to Adrian Chiles gentle lob about him not having played in a "Samba style" with:
"You know I did used to play the game, I didn't used to just run around kicking people."
Having got what Big Wrong might have called "a reducer" in early doors, Keane suddenly softened and became wistful, an alarming mood-swing from aggressive into lachrymose that was very familiar to anyone who has been set upon by a pub hardman only to find the brute then blubbing about the direction his life has taken.
"I was probably too uptight to enjoy playing football. They seem to enjoy it, it's a reflection of their lifestyle, their culture. I never had that obviously."
Oh Roy! Misunderstood. He coulda been a Copacabanacontenda. The rest of the pre-game punditry was strictly middle of the road, although we did enjoy Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's 150-second narration of 150 years of FA history (no mention of Faria, sadly) as well as the withering look Roy shot Adrian when the anchorman dropped a pad of paper off the needlessly irregularly shaped needlessly Perspex desk.
Out of work managers in pursuit of a new job traditionally use pundit appearances as a way to showcase themselves as interesting, perceptive and perhaps witty. Except Roy. Who cares not for such fripperies and looks utterly terrifying all the time and as such is surely almost unemployable in the modern era. Sir Ferguson has admitted that he has changed his management style in part to respond to the fact that the multi-millionaire South American man-children who make up an important cohort of the Premier League's better players simply can't handle the ole Celtic rage. We fear that Roy is now definitely a man out of time.
At the match itself, there were some surprisingly solid looking samba dancers, a peccably observed minute's silence and various presentations. It was Ashley Cole's 100th game, so Steve Gerrard was given a gold cap. (Cashley presumably refusing to accept less than a diamond one) and an award for 100 caps to Ronaldinho on, er, the occasion of his 95th.
As to the football, well, Brazil clearly used the chance to give a bit of game time to some fringe players - a guy who used to be Ronaldinho, a bloke who looked a bit like Neymar but can't have been the real one, making the professional comedian David Luiz captain. We would like to see ITV follow this experimental example in friendlies, using them to try out new talent or do something a bit left-field. Sadly, it was the same old Clive 'n' Andy show.
Look, we don't want to be harsh, after all, who amongst us is not a bit rubbish at what we do? But really, there is only so much "say-what-you-see" that we can stand. Andy T seems to have turned this into his one and only gig. A commentator has to describe the action but the co-comm is there to add light and shade, to season and spice the dish with insight, comment and observation.
Just having another man who says "he's tackled him there and laid the ball off" is redundant and surely the producers should know this and have a word with Andy to tell him to do something a bit different. His "you can't do that" comment after a replay of Gary Cahill gifting the ball to Brazil for the goal was the absolute nadir of an especially heinous performance. What? You can't pass the ball to the opposition striker 18 yards from your own goal? At this level you'll get punished, you say? Oh do tell us more, oh wise one. Thank God you played the game because none of us civilians could ever have understood a matter so profound and complex.
It is not unreasonable nor especially demanding to ask for a co-comm to do more than this. If it is not possible for anyone to be found to do it, then simply abandon the concept all together.
It is no doubt very hard indeed to be interesting on live TV for 90 minutes but they should not be asking someone who can't do anything other than reiterate what we can see for ourselves. The fault here isn't with those who are asked to do the job and who then do it poorly, it's with those who ask them to do it in the first place... and then keep on doing so. Can we not at least try some others?
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
Read Johnny's book, 'The Meat Fix' here
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